5 Best Smartwatches for Running of 2019

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Running watches are very much in the elite tier of the smartwatch space, offering the latest features, and some of the boldest designs in the game. They are also rather pricey, which can make choosing one rather tricky.

In this guide, we have decided to solve this issue by gathering up the best running watches available and comparing their various pros and cons. Our list includes a number of different products covering many different use cases, so there should be something for everyone, regardless of your requirements.

Budget
best-budget-smartwatch-for-running
Garmin Forerunner 235
4.8/5.0
Casing: 1.9 x 1.9 x 0.54 inches
Strap: silicone
This is low cost and has decent features.
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Best Value
best-value-smartwatch-for-running
Suunto 9 Baro
4.7/5.0
Casing: 1.97 x 1.97 x 0.67 inches
Strap: silicone
Superb feature-set, durable design.
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Top Pick
top-value-smartwatch-for-running
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
4.9/5.0
Casing: 1.9 x 1.9 x 0.6 inches
Strap: silicone
High-quality construction, excellent features.
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Smartwatches for Running Comparison Table

Make and ModelSizeConstructionFeaturesBattery LifePrice
Garmin Forerunner 945Casing: 1.9 x 1.9 x 0.54 inchesCasing: polymer

Strap: silicone

Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring,
performance monitoring, GPS, VO2 max,
Garmin Pay, incident detection,
pulse oximeter, music storage,
one-way notifications
Smartwatch Mode: 2 weeks

GPS Mode: 10 hours

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Suunto 9 Baro GPS SmartwatchCasing: 1.97 x 1.97 x 0.67 inchesCasing: plastic

Bezel: stainless steel

Strap: silicone

Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring,
altitude tracking, GPS, sports modes,
sleep tracking, one-way notifications
4 daysCheck Price
Garmin Fenix 5 PlusCasing: 1.9 x 1.9 x 0.6 inchesCasing: plastic

Bezel: titanium

Strap: silicone

Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring,
performance monitoring, GPS, altitude
tracking, music storage, Garmin Pay,
one-way notifications
Smartwatch Mode: 10 days

GPS Mode: 8 hours

Check Price
Garmin Forerunner 235Casing: 1.8 x 1.8 x 0.5 inchesCasing: plastic

Strap: silicone

Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring,
performance monitoring, GPS, race predictor,
VO2 max, one-way notifications
Smartwatch Mode: 9 days

GPS Mode: 11 hours

Check Price
POLAR Vantage VCasing: 1.8 x 1.8 x 0.5 inchesCasing: plastic

Strap: silicone

Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring,
performance monitoring, GPS, altitude
tracking
Smartwatch Mode: 7 days

GPS Mode: 40 hours

Check Price

1. Garmin Forerunner 945

Garmin Forerunner 945View on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

The Garmin Forerunner 945 is one of the hottest running watches on the market right now, and this is thanks in part to its rugged design and extensive feature-set. The device has also managed to generate a lot of hype since its release, thanks to the inclusion of a number of subtle improvements that users of its previous iteration had been crying out for.

Design

The Forerunner 945 isn’t the prettiest watch you will ever see, but its utilitarian design is still somewhat appealing in its own right. This aesthetic certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it should appeal to you if you prefer a watch to look practical, rather than classy.

The display on the watch is a round, LCD panel with a decent color gamut and plenty of sharpness. It isn’t the brightest display we’ve come across, but for the most part, it shouldn’t provide any issues. There is, however, a rather significant bezel around the display, which cheapens the overall look of the device.

The casing measures 1.9-inches across and has a thickness of 0.54-inches. This makes it slightly larger than your average smartwatch, however, you shouldn’t have any issues in terms of bulkiness unless you have particularly slender wrists.

The casing is also made from a fiber-reinforced polymer which helps to keep the device fairly lightweight, despite its larger size. Usually, a metal casing would be preferred on a device such as this, but the polymer does a good job at providing plenty of durability, despite being prone to cosmetic scratches.

The strap is made from silicone, making the device extremely comfortable to wear even during long training sessions. The strap is also attached to the watch via screws, reducing the likelihood of it becoming detached.

The Forerunner 945 is also water-resistant up to 164 feet, making it perfectly fine to use during a variety of water-based activities. Having said that, one activity we recommend avoiding with the 945 is diving, as the device is only water-resistant, not waterproof.

Features

The Forerunner 945 comes with a comprehensive feature-set that includes activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, performance monitoring, GPS, VO2 max, Garmin Pay, incident detection, pulse oximeter, music storage, and one-way notifications. On top of this, the device also includes a number of specific features for tracking individual activities such as running, swimming, and climbing.

While running, the 945 gives you access to six different data screens that can be customized to display a variety of different running metrics. You can also add metrics using Garmin’s Connect IQ app repository if the data you want isn’t available by default.

The watch also includes a number of advanced features such as Climb Pro, which can be used to find steep ascents on a trail run, and Training Load, which breaks down your workout into categories. The device can also detect changes in altitude and temperature as well, allowing it to accurately track your performance metrics with an impressive amount of precision.

Another interesting addition to this device is its inclusion of incident detection, which can be used to call for emergency help if you injure yourself whilst training. This is by no means the most exciting feature on this device, but it could potentially be the most important, especially if you train in locations that aren’t often packed with people.

The 945 also boasts a very competent sleep tracker that provides an advanced breakdown of your light and deep sleep, REM sleep, and time spent awake. On top of this, the device is also able to measure your oxygen levels while you sleep, which is a feature not often seen on most smartwatches.

Battery life

In smartwatch mode, the 945 can last up to 2 weeks between charges which is very impressive, given the number of features it includes. In fact, it means the device has the best smartwatch mode out of any of the devices in this guide, which is an impressive feat considering its competition. The device also has a very respectable battery life in GPS mode, lasting up to 10 hours at a time with all features turned on.

The Garmin Forerunner 945 functions not only as a smartwatch for runners, but also for serious athletes from a variety of different disciplines. It is also arguably the watch to go for if you are a trail runner, due to its Cimb Pro feature, incident detection, and advanced altitude and temperature monitoring.

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Tech Specs
Size: Casing: 1.9 x 1.9 x 0.54 inches
Construction: Casing: polymer

Strap: silicone

Features: Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, performance monitoring, GPS, VO2 max, Garmin Pay, incident detection, pulse oximeter, music storage, one-way notifications
Battery life: Smartwatch Mode: 2 weeks

GPS Mode: 10 hours

The Pros
Well sized
Should fit well on most wrists
Durable
High-quality strap
Rugged design
Very feature-rich
Includes GPS
Includes pulse oximeter
Includes payment method
Excellent battery life
Multiple modes
Impressive battery life in GPS mode
The Cons
Might feel bulky on slender wrists

2. Best Value: Suunto 9 Baro GPS Smartwatch

Suunto 9 Baro GPS SmartwatchView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The Suunto 9 Baro is a multisport GPS watch featuring a premium design and a number of advanced running features. The device also happens to be the company’s flagship smartwatch, making it a great option for anyone looking for the latest and greatest offering from an established brand.

Design

Like most running watches, the 9 Baro has a rugged appearance that leans towards function rather than form. Despite this, however, the watch manages to avoid looking ugly thanks to its high-quality bezel and solid buttons.

The display on the device is a bright LCD panel offering plenty of vibrancy even in brightly lit environments. It is also one of the larger displays on this guide, making it a particularly good option if you have large fingers or poor eyesight.

The casing measures 1.97-inches across, making it reasonably well-sized for most people, although you might experience some overhang of you have notable slender wrists. The watch is also 0.67-inches thick, which could cause some bulkiness issues.

The casing is made from a durable plastic compound, which should provide plenty of protection to the underside of the device. On top of the device, there is also a high-quality, stainless steel bezel, which protects the internals against drops and other impacts.

The strap is made from silicone, making it both comfortable and durable. What’s more significant, however, is the fact that it is finally changeable.

For a number of years, Suunto fans have been crying out for a strap that finally conforms to the universal standard, and it seems as though the company has finally listened with this product. This means that if you are unhappy with the strap, or it breaks, you should be able to replace it with relevant ease, even if you choose to buy a third-party strap instead.

As for water resistance, the 9 Baro can survive depths of up to 330 feet, making it one of the best options in this guide when it comes to swimming and other water-related activities. Even diving shouldn’t be a problem for this device, provided you stick to swimming pools rather than the sea.

Features

The Suunto 9 Baro comes equipped with a variety of features, including activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, altitude tracking, GPS, sports modes, sleep tracking, and one-way notifications. The device also comes with a special FusedTrack sensor designed to improve track and distance accuracy.

Swiping down on the display gives you access to a number of different metrics such as heart rate, steps taken, recovery time, and training hours. Alternatively, you can also use the down button on the side of the device to achieve the same purpose.

Swiping through the main dashboard on the device will also provide you with a panel showing your sleep data. This data is captured automatically by the device, meaning you don’t need to worry about turning the feature on or off when you go to bed. You can also specify a do not disturb time on the watch to avoid being woken up by notifications during the night.

Pressing the up button on the device will take you to the exercise menu, where you will be greeted with a number of different activities to choose from. The device can track over 80 different sports in total, however, these aren’t all readily available on the device, and you will need to use the Movescount app in order to customize them.

The running mode is arguably the best performer out of the lot, as it makes use of a number of different features on the device such as basic activity tracking, GPS, and altitude tracking. The device also allows you to specify running and cycling power zones, which is something Garmin watches currently lack.

Battery life

The one area that unfortunately lets this device down is its battery life. On a single charge the device can last up to 4 days depending on usage, which is below par compared to the other options in this guide. There is an intelligent battery mode available, offering a number of different power profiles, but even the most conservative option is lacking in performance.

This device was almost perfect, however, its battery life is simply too underwhelming. In terms of design, however, the 9 Baro is up there with the best, and the fact that it outperforms certain Garmin smartwatches in key areas, is rather impressive, considering the dominance Garmin is used to in this space.

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Tech Specs
Size: Casing: 1.97 x 1.97 x 0.67 inches
Construction: Casing: plastic

Bezel: stainless steel

Strap: silicone

Features: Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, altitude tracking, GPS, sports modes, sleep tracking, one-way notifications
Battery life: 4 days
The Pros
Well sized
Should fit well on most wrists
Relatively durable
High-quality bezel
High-quality strap
Very feature-rich
Includes GPS
Includes pulse oximeter
Includes payment method
Decent battery life
The Cons
Might feel bulky on slender wrists
A metal casing would have been preferred
Doesn’t include multiple modes

3. Top Pick: Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

Garmin Fenix 5 PlusView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.9/5

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus has been around for a while now, but it still remains one of the top options when it comes to running-focused smartwatches. The device commands a high price tag, but it’s premium design and wealth of features make it an appealing option nonetheless.

Design

One thing you will notice straight away about this device is that it oozes quality. Everything from the strap to the screws that hold it in place is made from high-grade materials, giving this device a premium look and feel that is simply unmatched by the other options in this guide.

The display is a full-color Garmin Chroma Display with LED backlighting that provides plenty of brightness and high levels of vibrancy. The display is also notably clear, making it a decent option for anyone with poor eyesight.

The casing measures 1.9-inches across, making it equal in width to the Suunto 9 Baro from above. This means you can expect a similar fit with this device, which might not be ideal if you have notably slender wrists. The watch is slightly thinner than the 9 Baro though, and with a thickness of 0.6-inches, bulkiness should be less of an issue.

The casing is made from a highly durable ABS plastic that is protected on top by a titanium or stainless steel bezel, depending on which model you choose. The base plate is also made from stainless steel, meaning that the chances of this device getting damaged from accidental drops are unlikely. Cosmetic scratches are still likely to appear over time, however.

The strap is made from silicone and comes with a quick-release mechanism, making it easy to swap out for something else. This is excellent if you plan to wear this device as your everyday smartwatch, as you can simply attach different straps on the fly to suit a number of different occasions and outfits.

The Fenix 5 Plus is also water-resistant up to 330-feet, which puts it on par with the likes of the 9 Baro. This means the device can handle pretty much any water-related activity you intend to throw at it, although you should be cautious about using the device in saltwater.

Features

The Fenix 5 Plus comes with a rather extensive feature-set that includes activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, performance monitoring, GPS, altitude tracking, Garmin Pay, and one-way notifications. The device also offers built-in music storage as well, meaning you don’t necessarily need to to take your phone with you every time you go for a run.

The watch is capable of tracking a variety of different sports, however, the running features are arguably what make this device. Whether you are a road, trail, or treadmill runner, the device comes with specific modes for each of them, and each mode is full of tailored metrics designed to give you detailed and accurate feedback on your performance.

You also have some control over the feedback as well, meaning you can tweak the information displayed on the screen to suit your needs at any time. You can even create your own sports modes to save time needing to adjust things every time you train.

Another nice feature that will be appreciated by trail runners is the fact that the watch can detect when you switch from running on flat ground to running up a mountain trail. When this happens, the watch automatically changes the display to show your ascent stats without you needing to press anything. This is only a minor feature, but small touches like this make a difference when you begin comparing devices in the higher price brackets.

The one downside to this device, however, is how reliant it is on extra accessories such as a chest strap heart rate monitor. This won’t be an issue for everyone, but if you don’t own any accessories, you might feel you are unable to get the most out of this device.

Battery life

The watch can last 10 days in smartwatch mode, which is pretty admirable, although considering its price point, we were expecting a bit more performance on this category. As for the GPS mode, you are likely to get around 8 hours out of the device in total. However, this will depend on how much you have used the device before switching to this mode.

This device is difficult to fault. Its design and construction are among the most premium we’ve seen on a smartwatch, and its feature-set offers a number of useful quirks that will likely be appreciated by most users. The battery life isn’t amazing, but overall, this is an excellent device to consider.

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Tech Specs
Size: Casing: 1.9 x 1.9 x 0.6 inches
Construction: Casing: plastic

Bezel: titanium

Strap: silicone

Features: Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, performance monitoring, GPS, altitude tracking, music storage, Garmin Pay, one-way notifications
Battery life: Smartwatch Mode: 10 days

GPS Mode: 8 hours

The Pros
Well sized
Should fit well on most wrists
Relatively durable
High-quality bezel
High-quality strap
Includes GPS
Includes altitude tracking
Includes payment method
Excellent battery life in smartwatch mode
The Cons
Might feel bulky on slender wrists
A metal casing would have been preferred
GPS mode could be improved

4. Best Budget: Garmin Forerunner 235

Garmin Forerunner 235View on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

The Garmin Forerunner 235 isn’t as feature-rich as most of the other devices in this guide, but it is arguably better value for money, due to its lower price point. Therefore, if you are looking to purchase a competent running watch without breaking the bank, the Forerunner 235 could be your best bet.

Design

The watch has a noticeably slimmer form factor than many of the other devices in this guide, which isn’t surprising when you consider that this device is packing fewer features. Unfortunately, however, the device is also burdened with a cheaper look and feel compared to the others, and the difference in quality is hard to ignore.

The display on the device measures 1.23-inches across and has a circular shape with the top and bottom cut off. It isn’t the most conventional display in terms of form, but the LCD panel is nice and bright, and the information it shows is easy to read.

The casing measures 1.8-inches in width and has a thickness of 0.5-inches. This means the device will likely fit more comfortably than the majority of the other devices in this guide, and you shouldn’t have any issues with bulkiness either.

The casing is also made from plastic, which should provide a decent level of durability. However, it is unlikely to produce the same results as the harder compounds found on some of the pricier options. There is also no fancy bezel available on this device, which leaves the display somewhat exposed to cosmetic scratches.

The strap is made from silicone and comes with a special pattern full of holes, designed to improve breathability and grip. It isn’t the most high-quality strap we’ve seen, but it should provide ample comfort and adjustability.

The watch is also water-resistant up to 165-feet, which is in keeping with most fitness watches these days. It means that swimming with the device is unlikely to cause any problems, however, diving should probably be avoided.

Features

The Forerunner 235 isn’t blessed with as many features as its bigger brothers, but it does offer activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, performance monitoring, GPS, race predictor, VO2 max, and one-way notifications. There is also a recovery advisor included on the watch that lets you know how long you should rest between workouts.

As you would expect from a Garmin wearable, all of the sensors are highly accurate and produce reliable results. However, the GPS function deserves a special mention, as it looks for both GPS and GLONASS satellites, meaning connection times are very fast.

The device also provides plenty of running metrics for you to analyze and customize between runs. The options aren’t as extensive as what you would get on the Forerunner 945 or the Fenix 5 Plus, but the device’s inclusion of a VO2 Max monitor is great to see, as this is usually reserved for more premium models.

There is also an excellent mobile app available for this device called Garmin Connect, which can be used to view a more detailed breakdown of your performance. The user-interface is a little cluttered and will likely take some getting used to, but the app really can’t be faulted when it comes to functionality.

Battery life

The Forerunner 235 doesn’t have the most impressive battery life, but it can last up to 9 days on a single charge, which is pretty impressive for a running watch at this price point. In GPS mode, the battery performance drops to around 11 hours, but this is to be expected, given the amount of power onboard GPS needs to run.

This device certainly isn’t perfect, but its sizeable feature-set and solid construction make it a worthy option for anyone operating on a tighter budget. There are a few design flaws which could be improved, such as the inclusion of a metal bezel, but overall this device is well worth its price tag.

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Tech Specs
Size: Casing: 1.8 x 1.8 x 0.5 inches
Construction: Casing: plastic

Strap: silicone

Features: Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, performance monitoring, GPS, race predictor, VO2 max, one-way notifications
Battery life: Smartwatch Mode: 9 days

GPS Mode: 11 hours

The Pros
Well sized
Should fit well on most wrists
One of the more compact options in this guide
Relatively durable
High-quality bezel
High-quality strap
Includes GPS
Includes VO2 max
Includes payment method
Includes multiple modes
Decent battery life in smartwatch mode
Impressive battery life in GPS mode
The Cons
A metal casing would have been preferred
Not as feature-rich as some of the other options in this guide

5. POLAR Vantage V

POLAR Vantage VView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The last device on this list comes from Polar and is known as the Vantage V. Despite not being a household name, Polar is well-known to the fitness community for producing a number of high-quality heart rate monitors and other fitness products. The Vantage V represents the company’s latest creation when it comes to running watches, and it is arguably the best of the lot.

Design

The watch has a sleek, modern design that goes against the grain of the rugged appearance most running watches are sporting. It’s always nice to see a company doing something different, and the Vantage V’s unique look will likely appeal to you if you aren’t a fan of the typical utilitarian approach.

The display is a round, LCD panel with vibrant colors and plenty of brightness. It also boasts a noticeable amount of contrast compared to the other device’s in this guide, so you shouldn’t have any issues with the colors looking washed out.

The casing measures 1.8-inches across, putting it on par with the Forerunner 235 in terms of size. The watch also has a thickness of 0.5-inches, meaning weight and bulkiness shouldn’t be an issue.

The casing is also made from plastic, which could potentially raise some durability concerns, especially if you intend to use the device for more extreme activities. As there is no bezel on this device, the display is also prone to cosmetic scratches, which could reduce visibility over time.

The strap is made from silicone, and it features the same sleek aesthetic as the body of the device. This means it complements the watch excellently, creating an almost seamless transition from body to strap. Its silicone construction also gives the strap a naturally soft texture, which oozes quality and comfort.

The Vantage V is also water-resistant up to 98-feet, which is rather underwhelming compared to the other devices in this guide. However, you will still be able to swim with device and running in inclement weather also won’t cause any harm.

Features

The device has a somewhat limited feature-set compared to the other devices in this guide. However, it does include activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, performance monitoring, GPS, and altitude tracking.

As you would expect, the device is capable of gathering a wealth of data from your workouts, which can all be viewed on the accompanying mobile app. This data also includes recovery time and training load, meaning you get some pretty advanced features compared to your average fitness tracker or smartwatch.

Another great feature on this device is its ability to show your running power directly on your wrist while you run. This is great for anyone looking to judge their effort based on something other than heart rate or calories burned, and it is arguably crucial for anyone who runs in a professional capacity.

Swim tracking is also great on this device, offering accurate stroke recognition and automatic rest and sets logging. You can also use this device for both pool swimming and open water swimming, making it a great companion if you take part in triathlons.

Surprisingly, the main downside to this device is the fact that the heart rate monitor can be somewhat unreliable during runs, which throws off the recovery data as well. Given that Polar specialize in heart rate technology, this is very disappointing to see. However, wearing the device more tightly may improve the results to some degree.

Battery life

The Vantage V can last up to 7 days on a single charge which is decent but not too impressive considering what most of the other devices in this guide are offering. In GPS mode, however, this device truly excels, boasting up to 40 hours of battery life, making multiple workouts possible between charges.

This device has a refreshing design and a number of advanced features not yet seen from the other products in this guide. It does, however, lack some quality in terms of construction, and the battery life in smartwatch mode could really do with an improvement.

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Tech Specs
Size: Casing: 1.8 x 1.8 x 0.5 inches
Construction: Casing: plastic

Strap: silicone

Features: Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, performance monitoring, GPS, altitude tracking
Battery life: Smartwatch Mode: 7 days

GPS Mode: 40 hours

The Pros
Well sized
Should fit well on most wrists
One of the more compact options in this guide
Relatively durable
High-quality bezel
High-quality strap
Includes GPS
Includes VO2 max
Includes payment method
Decent battery life in smartwatch mode
Impressive battery life in GPS mode
The Cons
A metal casing would have been preferred
Not as feature-rich as some of the other options in this guide
0/50 ratings